The Los Angeles Lakers ended 2021 on a high note as they blew out the Portland Trail Blazers at Crypto.com Arena, 139-106.
It was a hot start for the Lakers and LeBron James, who hit their first four field-goal attempts and took a 12-4 lead in the process. With James at center, Los Angeles’ offense had no issues carving up the Portland defense and they extended their advantage to 15.
The Lakers remained up by double digits, but the Trail Blazers began to heat up from the outside as former Lakers players Ben McLemore and Larry Nance Jr. hit their four attempts. Carmelo Anthony was able to respond to McLemore’s hot shooting with three triples of his own though against his former team and L.A. led 43-28 after one.
James made sure the Lakers remained firmly in control after knocking down his third three of the night to start the second quarter while defensively the team did a good job of ensuring Damian Lillard did not get a clean look. Portland had zero answers for James as the newly turned 37-year-old soared down the lane for a dunk and followed it up with a corner three. He had an impressive 27 points in the first half to go along with 10 rebounds.
The Blazers briefly made a dent in the deficit, but Malik Monk kept the scoring going to make sure the Lakers stayed well ahead. Portland showed signs of life in the closing moments, but Los Angeles led 69-54 at the half.
The recipe for the Lakers was the same to begin the third as James bullied the undersized Blazers to keep them from closing the gap. Russell Westbrook was able to record another triple-double after finding Stanley Johnson under the basket, pushing the lead back up to 20.
Despite the large lead, James continued to play both ends which energized Los Angeles and keep Portland from making any sort of run. The Lakers had a chokehold on the momentum and they would go into the final period up 101-77.
The Laker defense remained active as James and Austin Reaves came up with steals that ignited their transition offense. With James remaining hot from the field and the defense bottling up the Blazer bench, the Lakers came away with the victory.
James finished the night with a season-high 43 points on 16-of-26 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers in his first game as a 37-year-old.
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